Hovde Group in Chicago has hired two former Sandler O'Neill research analysts to lead its equity research group.

Joseph Fenech and Kevin Fitzsimmons, who resigned from Sandler O'Neill in March, will join Hovde as managing directors, where they will be responsible to oversee equity research coverage of U.S. banks.

Fenech has more than 15 years of experience covering the financial services industry, including a decade at Sandler O'Neill. Prior to this, he was part of Prudential Equity Group's equity research department and was a research analyst at Deutsche Bank.

Fitzsimmons is a veteran of the financial services and equity research industries with 20 years of experience. He spent 11 years at Sandler O'Neill in its research department covering banks. Previously, he was an equity research analyst at Prudential Securities and Credit Suisse First Boston in New York. He also served as a commercial bank examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Hovde Group also named Michael Hedrei and Matt Shields as directors in its equity capital markets group. In this role, Hedrei and Shields will handle equity sales, market making and trading execution.

"The addition of such an experienced group of professionals who have been at the forefront of servicing financial institutions and the investment community for over a decade with respect to the bank sector, is a tremendous opportunity for the firm, particularly at a time when the choices available to banks and investors within this space have been limited," Steven Hovde, chief executive of Hovde Group, said in a press release.

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